Comics Unmasked, an exhibition at the British Library

June 11, 2014


Kill superheroes!!! Tell your own dreams.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Some of you might not be aware of this but before I embarked in working for a financial services company, I was a professional colourist. Part of the work I was doing back then was colouring comic books! I worked with an artist and we did a few minor titles for Image Comics and Marvel, besides the commercial work for advertising agencies. I’ve always been interested in comics and graphic novels, so for all these reasons, I could not have missed the Comics Unmasked exhibition over at the British Library.

The exhibition shows a comprehensive analysis of British comics, throughout history and how comics were part of social change as well as a reflection of it. It’s organized in several sections, and it’s very easy to go through. Sometimes you have to queue to go through some of the glass displays but it’s unavoidable due to the nature of the objects on show. You will also see several mannequins wearing the V is for Vendetta mask, which has been in recent years adopted by the Occupy movement. That is a very good example of how comic book culture has invaded the mainstream and if you ask me, will continue to do so more and more. It’s a great time to be a geek!

My favourite sections at the exhibition were  “To See Ourselves“, “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Breakdowns: The Outer Limits of Comics“. “To See Ourselves” focused mainly on you guessed it, us. Comic books started paying attention to real life in the 70’s, reflecting the questions that society was posing itself – Women’s Rights, Racism and other viewpoints. This happened because small presses and fanzines started proliferating, allowing minorities to have a voice.

Aubrey Beardsley

Let’s Talk About Sex” was also a favourite section of mine… Mostly because some personal favourites, like Aubrey Beardsley’s Lysistrata and John Willie’s Sweet Gwendoline were on show, among other erotic creations. Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls was also represented, a very controversial tome that I think it’s well worth reading. All links in this paragraph are NSFW, obviously, so click at your own risk!

Moving on to the next favourite, ” Breakdowns: The Outer Limits of Comics“, this section explored the influence of magic(k) in modern comics – a few authors such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore are well known to explore mystical and esoteric themes. Of course, Alan Moore’s Promethea had to be featured as it is heavily influenced by the writings of Aleister Crowley. Speaking of which , I was surprised to see that the original manuscript for Confessions of a Drug Fiend as well as ‘The Universe’ card from his Thoth Tarot deck were on display. Along with this, another manuscript was to be found, this time by John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s own wizard. Certainly pieces that are unusual and not shown to the public all that often.

My general impression is that the exhibition revolves a lot around transgression, as you may have realized through the snippets I shared. This may have also been due to the art director’s sensibilities (Dave McKean) – if you know his work this makes sense.  There is a lot more to be seen, so I would definitely recommend a visit. You can do so until the 19th of August and I would suggest booking your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.

For more information, go to the British Library’s website.

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  • Reply KizzyDoll June 11, 2014 at 07:08

    This would have been amazing to go to. Love the sections and themes too, hitting on real issues. Perfect, wish I lived closer really. Have a great day doll x

  • Reply Caitlin June 11, 2014 at 12:35

    Sounds like a really cool exhibition – and that’s so cool that you used to be a professional colourist! Would love to see some of your work on the blog 🙂
    Caitlin x

  • Reply pastcaring June 11, 2014 at 18:42

    What a brilliant exhibition, much to enjoy here. I do love a Beardsley print! xxx

  • Reply Rosy June 11, 2014 at 20:49

    This sounds very interesting! Wow! I did not know you worked with comics before … that’s so funny! Have a wonderful week, dear friend!

  • Reply Comics Unmasked, Exhibition at the British Library - The Comics Grid June 12, 2014 at 11:02

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  • Reply sandra June 12, 2014 at 11:42

    I have never been there, Jenny, my daughter would absolutely love this exhibition! I think it is so amazing you worked as colourist for Image Comics and Marvel too, of course I am going to tell my daughter! she will be awed with you! x x x

  • Reply Señora Allnut June 12, 2014 at 20:28

    such an interesting exhibition, I would love to watch everything!!, even I’m really disconnected from the comic new releases, I still enjoy classics!

  • Reply Annika June 20, 2014 at 15:41

    I am going on Monday! :o)

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